MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - No one wants to be told that they have cancer. But the sooner you know, the sooner you can get live-saving treatment.
Mayo Clinic will roll out a new test that can detect more than 50 cancers by the end of the year. Doctors call it a game-changer.
"My dad, he was a healthy guy. He didn't have any known risk factors for cancer," Dr. Julia Feygin said.
Feygin lost her 40-year-old father to pancreatic cancer at 13. Diagnosed at stage three, he lived for nine more months.
"I strongly believe that purpose can be found in everything that happens," Feygin said.
She's now part of a team at the company GRAIL rolling out a blood test called Galleri that she says can catch hard-to-detect, aggressive and often deadly cancers like pancreatic, ovarian and esophageal.
"If cancers can be detected early, we can dramatically improve patient outcomes," Feygin said.
Feygin explains our blood contains a DNA signature. The blood test tracks the DNA a cancer cell sheds.
The two tubes of patient blood drawn are sent to Galleri's lab for analysis.
"We can find and sequence these tiny bits of tumor derived DNA in the blood and based on the patterns we see we can reveal if there is a signal for cancer present. We can predict with very high accuracy where in the body this cancer signal is coming from," Feygin said.
The results are sent back to the healthcare provider in 10 business days. An interventional study that included Mayo Clinic with 6,600 participants returned 29 signals that were followed by a cancer diagnosis.
Another study found a less than 1% false positive rate.
There are some caveats on who can get the test.
"It's intended to be used for people at an elevated risk for cancer. This can be something as simple as age." Feygin said.
Right now, the test is prescription-only. Insurance doesn't cover the test. You pay out of pocket with a current cost of $949.
"In the year 2021 this is so far beyond anything else we've been able to do. This is a game-changer," said Dr. Greg Plotnikoff. He has prescribed the test for patients, and family members with risk factors, saying cancers caught early are in more treatable stages.
"If we can catch things earlier, we have a chance then to make a significant difference," Plotnikoff said.
He also chose to screen himself, being over 60.
"If there was any kind of signal, I wanted to know it and be able to do something about it," Plotnikoff said.
The American Cancer Society says 71% of cancer deaths come from types of cancer that have no recommended screening.
Feygin says they hope to change outcomes for families like hers in the future.
"It really presents an unprecedented opportunity to bend the cancer mortality curve, and really save so many lives," Feygin said.
This test is meant to complement other screenings like mammograms. Its maker is still working on full FDA approval. You can ask your doctor to request the test. Before the end of the year, Grail Galleri will be available at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Jacksonville, Florida, and Phoenix, Arizona. It will also be available at Mayo Clinic Health System sites, southern Minnesota and Wisconsin. M Health Fairview will also offer the test by the end of the year.
For more information on GRAIL and the Galleri test, click here.
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